The Part-time Ghetto

What is the difference between people with part-time jobs and people with full-time jobs?

If you’re part-time, you don’t get sick days (so when you’re sick for a day, you lose a day’s pay); you don’t get time and a half for overtime (time and a half starts after 44 hours, not after the numbers of hours you’ve been hired to work); you don’t get seniority (it simply doesn’t apply to part-timers); you have to pay for your own dentist appointments, your prescription drugs, and your glasses (so you don’t make dentist appointments just for check-ups, you don’t buy prescription drugs unless they’re absolutely essential, and your glasses are for your eyes of five years ago); and your only pension plan is the CPP and whatever you save on your own (which is not a lot if you’re only part-time).

But more significant than these monetary differences are the differences in your perceived value: your input is less often solicited, whether regarding shift schedules or company policy; your work is thought to be less important, no matter what you’re doing (your paycheque is thought to be less important too, so you often have to wait longer for it); you’re automatically considered a beginner who needs more supervision, who’s expected to ‘prove’ herself; in short, if you’re part-time, you don’t get treated or taken seriously. And don’t kid yourself – the differences exist along the whole job spectrum: the differences between the part-time and full-time waitresses are the same as the differences between the part-time and full-time professors.

Let me ask again, what’s the difference between part-time and full-time? Usually, about ten hours. Why is this such a big deal? (I mean apart from ‘It’s a man-made world and men are obsessed with quantity differences.) (It is not insignificant that most part-time jobs, the second-class group, are filled by women. And I wonder which came first, the chicken or the egg: was part-time work devalued because women did it or were women put in the part-time positions because such positions were devalued?) There’s no difference between the cleaning done by the part-time custodian and that done by the full-time custodian; there is no difference between the lawyering done by the attorney who’s part-time with the firm and that done by the one who’s full-time.

Quite simply, an elementary but serious error in logic is made by those who perpetuate this two-class system: they have assumed a causal relationship between quantity and quality. (Again, who is it who keeps connecting quantity with quality, who keeps believing bigger is better?) They have assumed that those working less than 35 hours/week are not doing as good a job.

Good as in as committed? But it’s often not people’s choice to be part-time instead of full-time; they’d be full-time if they could! And in fact, the desire to become full-time often leads to more, not less, commitment to one’s duties.

Good as in competent? The part-time worker is not necessarily less qualified or less experienced. In fact, given the glutted job market, the younger employees who must settle for part-time work are often more qualified than the older full-time workers. (And again, they have good reason to try harder, to be more competent.)

Good as in enthusiastic? Wouldn’t it make more sense to assume that the more hours one works, the more tired and burned out, i.e., the less enthusiastic, one is? In fact, how can one be a healthy individual, how can one live a balanced life, when 80% of one’s waking hours are spent in the same place, doing the same thing?

It doesn’t make sense. That’s all there is to it. Why should the number of hours per week determine whether you are a first-class employee or a second-class employee? What’s so magical about the number 40? And will the magic disappear if and when we scale down to a 30-hour work week?

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One Response to “The Part-time Ghetto”

  1. John Says:

    Nice posting about part time job. I found big collection of full time jobs in hound.com that directly from employer web sites. Hound is unique and trust able. I like it.


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